Entering the 2012 NFL Draft, the top two picks might have been a forgone conclusion, but there was still no shortage of surprises on draft day. In fact, the first round turned out to be one of the most unpredictable for Day One in recent memory.
Here's my observations from Thursday night's festivities.
The Kings: Minnesota Vikings
Not only did Minnesota land a potential perennial Pro Bowl left tackle, but the team was also able to stockpile additional picks by swapping the third overall selection for the fourth with Cleveland (who moved up to secure RB Trent Richardson) and managed to steal Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith before the start of the second round.
The Vikings surrendered one of their fourth-round picks (98th overall) to move up six spots (from the 35th overall selection) to take Harrison Smith in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens.
A sound tackler and a physical player who's solid against the run and has strong skills set in pass coverage, Smith looks to provide an immediate presence in Minnesota's defense.
As it stands, the team has 10 picks left, with its next selection happening 66th overall (third pick in round three), followed by three late fourth-round picks, two early draft choices in round five, one early selection in the sixth round and three picks in round seven (two early seventh-round picks, one in the middle).
The Go-Getters/Good Dealers: Dallas Cowboys
Morris Claiborne may have scored a four on his Wonderlic test. He might not have given a rat's ass about it, either.
But he's a star cover-corner with exponential potential at the next level and the Cowbvoys picked up a sure-fire steal.
At LSU, Claiborne started 26 contests (appeared in 33 games) and made 95 tackles (2.5 for a loss) with 11 interceptions and 274 yards after theft, including an 89-yard return for a score.
His presence was also felt on special teams, averaging 28.8 yards last year on kickoff returns, including a 99-yard TD.
Reports have now come out that the team is shopping cornerback Mike Jenkins, per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.
Regardless of what happens with Jenkins, the converted wide receiver and 2011 Thorpe Award winner will give opposing receivers headaches and provide an immediate impact, just as his ex-teammate Patrick Peterson did with the Arizona Cardinals.
The Right Pick(s): Cleveland Browns
The Browns bolstered their backfield with a multidimensional bulldozer that possesses a rare combination of drive, size, speed and strength and picked up QB Brandon Weeden, both selections I predicted in my seven-round mock draft on the Browns and Michael Gartman had in his final first-round mock draft.
The Best Value: San Diego Chargers
San Diego addressed on of its top needs and picked up the best value pick on Thursday evening.
"Ingram slipped in the draft due to concerns with his short arms and stocky body," according to Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com.
"He’s not the prototype pass rusher at shy of 6-foot-2, but Ingram was highly productive in the SEC," MDS added. "In San Diego, Ingram’s likeliest position is outside linebacker on passing downs. He can also wreak havoc with his hand in the dirt, and got much of his college production as a defensive tackle on the interior line."
The Patriot Way: New England Patriots
Well-recognized for trading down on draft day, Bill Belichick mix things up and move up to the 21st selection with the Cincinnati Bengals to take DE Chandler Jones to bolster the pass rush, before striking a deal with the Denver Broncos for the 25th pick to get linebacker Dont'a Hightower from Alabama, coached by Belichick's good buddy Nick Saban.
The team has only two picks left in the whole draft and both are in the second round. It's safe to say the Patriots will probably move down with at least one of those picks, but that might be exactly what Belichick wants us to think.
Puzzling Pick (1 of 2): San Francisco 49ers
The Niners struck gold addressing on the team's top needs: a wide receiver. However, it wasn't Rueben Randle, Stephen Hill, Alshon Jeffery or even Mohamed Sanu, all of whom were available with the 30th overall pick. Instead, San Francisco took A.J. Jenkins out of Illinois.
He had a solid college career and saw his stock increase after running an impressive sub-4.4 in his 40-time at the Combine. Jenkins looks to battle for the No. 1 spot in the slot from the get-go in San Francisco, while Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and Randy Moss operate on the outside.
Take pot shots at Jim Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke all you want; Chris Culliver and Aldon Smith certainly didn't disappoint and neither did the franchise in 2011.
Puzzling Pick (2 of 2): Seattle Seahawks
As if you needed further evidence that Pete Carroll still holds a cold-hard grudge against Jim Harbaugh (after Stanford pummeled USC 55-21 and Carroll accused Harbaugh of "rubbing it in"), Michael Lombardi of NFL Network reported during that he was told earlier on Thursday that "a team in the NFC West told me [they] were going to pick him, but it was a team picking in the 30's—that was San Francisco" during Thursday night's live coverage. "They went in and worked him out and the kid honestly thought he was going to San Francisco," he added. "Seattle obviously picked him instead."
"Per a league source, at least seven teams had Irvin rated as one of the top 15 players available in the draft," according to Mike Florio. "It’s no coincidence that we had Irvin in round one of the PFT and PFT Live mock drafts."
He'll be situational pass-rusher in Seattle, but so was Aldon Smith in San Francisco. Irvin also has his fair share of character concerns, including juvenile jail and being arrested in mid-March for destruction of property. Apparently, Pete Carroll didn't mind much and wanted to keep him from Harbaugh enough and wanted him enough to take the risk.
Only time will tell whether the risk reaps rewards.
The Disappearing Act: Denver Broncos
Denver got out of the first round and is slotted to take its first pick 36th overall.
There are an infinite number of options for Denver (including, but not limited to): defensive tackle (Jerel Worthy and Devon Still); defensive end (Courtney Upshaw, Vinny Curray and Andre Branch); linebacker (Zach Brown, Ronnell Lewis and Lavonte David); cornerback (Janoris Jenkins); center (Peter Konz); guard/tackle (Mike Adams, Amini Silatolu, Cordy Glenn and Jonathan Martin, etc.); running back (Lamar Miller and LaMichael James); wide receiver (Stephen Hill, Mohamed Sanu and Rueben Randle).
The Right Move: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags got Justin Blackmon by jumping ahead of St. Louis, trading away seventh overall pick and a seventh-round selection in exchange of the fifth overall pick to Tampa Bay.
2011 Jaguars’ Leading Receivers:
The 6-1, 215-pound wide out chalked up a whopping 121 receptions for 1,522 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. While many draw comparisons to T.O., Blackmon reminds me more of Calvin Johnson.
He may not have the same blazing speed, tight end-like size and striking strength as Megatron, but when you’ve seen Blackmon’s Sports Science segment, it’s easy to see the clear connection. I also suggest checking out Megatron’s feature on Sports Science.
Blaine Gabbert has probably lost some sleep during this offseason, but he's most likely on cloud nine now.
His sentiments might not be shared yet by Sam Bradford, until his team takes a wide receiver early in the second round.